While some may be labeled as natural salespeople, there are traits that aren’t necessarily “salesy” that are actually imperative to being a successful salesperson. Some of these skills can be taught, while others come more naturally. That’s why it’s important to look for the right mix of skills when hiring for your sales team.
Before you interview your next set of potential sales hires, check out this list of underappreciated traits and skills from the industry experts of Forbes Agency Council. Keep their suggestions in mind when you are evaluating a possible new salesperson.
1. Positive Energy And Attitude
People buy from those they like. There are a lot of things you can teach, but being likable isn’t one of them. It’s a positive energy and attitude that lights up a room — someone agile enough to read the energy and, if in a one-on-one conversation, know when it’s time to move it forward and when and how to “close.” They start and leave on a positive note, no matter the outcome of a particular deal. – Ajay Gupta, Stirista
Most people associate “salesperson” with someone who is pushy, arrogant, has all the answers and won’t let the customer get a word in. While this isn’t true for all, customers come in with their guard up expecting to be steamrolled. The most effective ways to combat this is with humility — a willingness to listen, transparency, honesty and being OK with losing a sale if it isn’t the right fit. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR
Ambiverts, not extroverts, make the best salespeople — that is, the rare people who are in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Surprisingly, studies have found that the order (in terms of effectiveness) is actually ambivert, then introvert then extrovert. This makes sense because sales is about listening intently and asking questions while being unafraid to challenge flawed assumptions. – Adam Guild, Placepull
A salesperson may have a specific skill set like being persuasive, but there is nothing like a likeable person! My experience is that there is nothing like being around a happy, positive person. People will want to do business or buy products and services from someone they like even if the price is higher, capabilities lower and so on. Being a happy, fun, positive person is a secret weapon for sales. – April Joy Rudin, The Rudin Group
5. Good Conversationalist
It seems that striking up a good conversation is a lost art these days. This conversational ability, as well as being relatable to others, is key in hiring salespeople. Relationships are built with trust and this trust is earned not by hard-selling people, but by being able to relate to others and deliver a message that is portable, depending on the audience. – Lee Salisbury, UnitOneNine
6. Good Listener
A good salesperson must listen, understand what they hear and then position solutions to address the needs of the person. It’s less about talking and more about listening, aligning and then repeating back their problem with a solution that you can offer. A salesperson is only as good as what they deliver upon. Timely and efficient follow-through is a must. – Ilissa Miller, IMiller Public Relations
7. Entrepreneurial Mindset
As a digital agency, we look for sales candidates who have been entrepreneurs themselves, so they can authentically communicate with our startup clientele and prospects. Strong communication skills and being relatable and passionate, coupled with in-depth industry knowledge, creates that unique combination of skills and traits for a great salesperson. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC
Being resourceful is vital when it comes to selling a product or service. It’s not just being resourceful about what you are selling, but also with your competitors and your surroundings. Knowledge is key and customers admire that trait. – Cagan Sean Yuksel, GRAFX CO.
9. Intellectual Curiosity
As a digital media firm, our services and tools are constantly evolving. This requires our team to be in a mindset of continual learning. Our best sales team applies that philosophy in client relationships. We ask questions to understand the business, the challenges they are facing (not just in marketing) and the competitive landscape. It positions us to solve problems and avoid selling a service. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions
Sales is a numbers game. The best salespeople understand their numbers and have figured out which behaviors and disciplines on their part produce the best outcomes. Great sales people track their activity and results, and eliminate those things that don’t work and repeat those things that do work. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group
11. Ability To Read People
The ability to “read” people is an innate quality that is often underappreciated. It’s a skill that some people are just born with. It’s not something you learn — people who have this ability can read a room. They can sense how to approach someone, when to speak, when to listen intently and when to walk away. It’s definitely an “it” factor that’s rare. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing
12. Tenacity And Patience
A great salesperson has more than the love of a sale. They have a true love of the hunt and the patience to wait it out. My best business development folks have two traits: tenacity and patience. In sales, it’s tempting to focus on the quick win, but we’ve landed the best clients by slowly and patiently proving our value. In my opinion, “slow and steady” wins the race in agency sales. – Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency
13. Ability To Solve Problems
When a salesperson is dedicated to solving a problem over pushing a product, this comes across when speaking (or emailing with a customer). To solve a problem, you need to know what it is first. How do you learn this? By listening. The more you listen, the more your prospect will feel heard. Listen for the pain, provide a solution and let the client sell themselves. – Bernard May, National Positions
14. Visual Skills
By and large, sales people are visual learners and communicators, more so than verbal. They take their cues from body language and prefer to use presentations and collateral that show diagrams, charts and images. While many may consider this trait to be a disadvantage due to our society and business being based on the written word, a visual tendency is perhaps the most worthy sales trait. – Francine Carb, Markitects, Inc.
15. Ability To Make People Smile
The ability to make people smile is an underrated trait in sales. People will smile when they feel comfortable and at ease. Many times a potential client has put up walls to not seem overly eager. If you can make them smile, then they have lowered their defenses a bit. It means that they are now more open and willing to share their thoughts as well as genuinely hear what you have to share. – Henry Kurkowski, One WiFi